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Drying Clothes Outside During Winter (How to Do It Right)

Drying clothes outside is necessary for most people as not everyone has access to a machine dryer. But in winter, this can be a challenging task, especially if your winters are rainy or snowy, but do not worry, drying your clothes outside in winter can still be done! 

Drying clothes outside in winter requires a lot of patience, but if you keep your washing loads small and you spread your clothes out on the line evenly, ensuring they do not touch each other to allow for good airflow between the clothes, then your clothes will dry in time. 

What is the science behind drying clothes? Why should you never dry your clothes indoors, especially in winter? What are the cons of drying your clothes outside in winter? Let us find out!

Can You Dry Clothes Outside In Winter? 

Drying clothes outside in the winter can be challenging for most people who have to contend with snow or rain, but it can be done. You need to understand how clothes dry, and you need to have patience as it can take some time, but it is possible to dry your clothes outside during winter.

Drying your clothes outside has great benefits; for example, you can save on electricity as you are not running a dryer machine for half a day. But there are some problems through too, especially in winter, as it can cause a pile-up of wet clothes in your home. 

Fortunately, there are a few tips and ways that you can implement to help dry your clothes outside during the winter that may just help you avoid this situation. 

But before we get to those, let us look at the science behind drying clothes, yes there is science behind it, and it can be very useful to know and understand how your clothes dry for those cold winter mornings when you need clothes to dry. 

The Science Behind Drying Clothes

Knowing the science behind how your wet clothes dry is a great way to understand how to protect your clothes during this process and will help you determine if your clothes will actually be able to dry outside your home in the winter, depending on the climate of the winters your country has.

When you place a piece of wet clothing outside on the line to dry, the liquid water on and saturated into the clothes will evaporate into water vapor. This water vapor will then defuse out into the air that is around the clothes. 

When we have a look at the clothing on the molecular level, when the item of clothing is wet, this “wetness” comes from many tiny water particles that are non-statically and loosely bonded together to form a liquid as well as being bonded to the clothing, which makes wet clothes.

The drying process of the clothes consists of these individual molecules of water breaking free from the individual bonds that they have to clothing and each other. This then allows the water molecules to fly off the clothes and into the air around them.

So, the speed at which your wet clothes will be able to dry outside in the winter will be determined by the net evaporation rate of the liquid water molecules that are present on your clothes. 

This drying rate will further be influenced by three main factors: the temperature of the liquid water that is on your wet clothes, how humid the outside air is around the drying clothes, and the outside airflow rate. All of which will help detrain whether your clothes will actually dry outside in the winter in the area you live. 

Air Humidity Outside Your Home For Drying Clothes

The humidity in the air outside your home plays an important role in airdrying your wet clothes outside, especially in the winter. Suppose the air outside surrounding the drying clothes already has a high density of water molecules in it, meaning that there is a high humidity level. In that case, this can cause some problems with the drying of your wet clothes.

If there is a high humidity level outside your home when you are airdrying your clothes outside, the clothes will take longer to dry in these conditions. 

This is due to the water molecules that are on the clothes from washing them are trying to break off into water vapor, but due to the high humidity level, they will have less space to break off and enter into the air freely as the air is already saturated with water molecules. 

So, if you are trying to dry clothes outside in air that already has a high humidity factor, this will slow down the drying process, which could take the time needed to do your laundry increase as you wait for space to hang up newly washed clothes. 

This can become an issue because when your clothes stay wet for too long, they can start to develop a ‘musty’ smell that is pretty difficult to get rid of. With certain types of clothing, the water molecules that are attached to the clothes can begin to affect the dyes in the clothing.

High humidity is a huge problem for people who have wet winters and need to dry their clothes, which is why some people choose to hang their clothes up inside during the winter. However, this is not the solution you should use as it can cause more problems for you, which we will go through later in this article.

How Temperature Effects Drying Clothes Outside  

Adding heat to the clothes drying will speed up the process of drying the clothes. This is due to one fact that we all know: water has a boiling point. And once the water has reached its boiling point, it will start to evaporate and turn into water vapor and float off into the air surrounding the clothes.

So, when you are trying to dry clothes outside, the higher the temperature is in your area, the faster your clothes will dry. The water molecules on your clothes will have an easier time breaking free from their bonds to enter the surrounding air.

However, you need to ensure that the temperature outside is not too high; otherwise, this heat can start to damage the fibers in your clothes, which can lead to wear and tear becoming a problem. 

But the lowest temperature at which your clothes can dry properly may surprise you, as there is a process that clothes can go through to dry that is not affected by temperature. So, even if you have cold temperatures in winter, you can still dry your clothes outside; this is called freeze-drying or sublimation. 

This is the process where the water turns straight into a gas without the need for evaporation. This will happen naturally in close to freezing temperatures. If the temperatures outside are nearly freezing, you can still dry your clothes outside; it may just take a little longer. 

Learn more about the optimal temperature for your laundry here.

The Air Flow Rate Outside Effects Drying Clothes 

When you are drying your wet clothes, it is crucial to the drying process to have good airflow around the wet clothes that you are trying to dry. The reason for this is that if the air surrounding your wet clothes is motionless, then the water vapor created when the water molecules begin to break away from the fabric of the clothes will mainly stay close to the drying clothes.

And because this water vapor stays close to the drying clothes and is not being taken away by good airflow, this gives the water molecules in the vapor the opportunity to collide back into the clothes. 

From this collision, the molecules of water in the vapor will condense back into their liquid form, which will slow down the drying process of the clothes, as the clothes keep continuously getting wet every time this cycle occurs. 

So, you need to make sure that there is good airflow around the clothes you are trying to dry outside, especially in the winter. Then, not only will the clothes dry at a faster pace outside, but this will help lessen the possible damage to the clothes mentioned in the air humidity section above. 

Tips For Drying Clothes Outside In Winter

Trying to dry your clothes outside in the winter can be challenging; luckily, there are some tops available that can help with this process. These tips are easy to implement, and they will not take much more time out of your day than your laundry already has. 

When you are hanging your clothes up outside in the winter, make sure you keep the line spacious by pegging the clothes up separately and never overlap your clothing. Leaving a gap in between the clothes will help with airflow around the clothes. 

Make sure to give the clothes a little extra space on the line during winter.

Another good tip is to do your laundry more frequently, as this will help stop a build-up of clothes that need to be washed and allow you to space your clothes out on the line better. 

When you wash your clothes in the winter, use your washing machine’s fastest spin cycle, as this will help to “squeeze out” most of the water from your clothes before you hang them up to dry. And then when you do hang your clothes up outside, open everything, all the buttons, and zips on your clothes need to be open for faster drying in the winter. 

Why You Should Not Dry Clothes Indoors

Drying your clothes indoors may seem like a logical idea during the winter, but this can lead to some health risks for you and your family that are not worth the faster drying time. 

Drying your clothes indoors on radiators can create indoor pollution in your home, as this releases VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) into the air. The chemicals from fabric dyes, fabric softeners, detergents, and so on can evaporate into the air with the water molecules resulting from the clothes being heated by the radiator. 

Drying clothes indoors can also increase the humidity of your house by up to 30% on the day that you do your laundry, which can then increase your house’s overall humidity by 15%. If your house is poorly ventilated, which will be in the winter as you will not have windows open, this can cause mold problems in your home. 

Mold spores will affect people with asthma, and they can cause several respiratory issues, like bronchitis, fatigue, headaches, sinusitis, and more. 

Since it’s winter, I figured you’d like to read this: Fireplace Insert Vs Wood Stove: What’s The Difference?

Some Pros And Cons Of Drying Clothes Outdoors 

Airdrying your clothes outdoors is a good method to dry your clothes even in the winter; however, just as with drying your clothes indoors, there are some cons that you should be aware of, and that can affect your health if you suffer from allergies and asthma, but there are also some pros, so let us have a look at them.

A few pros of drying your clothes outside include:

  • There is no concern about your clothes taking up precious space inside your home, especially if you have a smaller living area.
  • The sun can help bleach your white clothes and disinfect your clothes, even in winter when the sun is not at its strongest.
  • You save will on electricity by not needing to use de-humidifiers and air-conditioners or electric fans to keep your home safe while your clothes dry.

Some cons for drying your clothes outside include:

  • You need to be concerned about the outside environmental factors, such as thunderstorms that can affect the drying process of your clothes.
  • If you live in a location near a busy farm or road, then your clothes can absorb undesirable odors from the air around them, as the smells from these pollutants will float past your drying clothes.
  • You need to watch for the local wild animals near your home, as birds may relieve themselves on your drying clothes, or they may even steal pieces of loose fabrics to use in their nests, which can ruin your clothes.
  • If you have allergies and asthma, drying your clothes outside, even in the winter, can cause a flair-up as your clothes are exposed to plant material and other molecules that are in the air, so when you wear the clothes, they may affect you. 
  • If you live in a location that experiences dry winters with a lot of dust floating around, if you dry your clothes outside, this dust can dirty your clothes with they are drying and before you even get to wear them. 

Conclusion

Drying clothes outside in the winter is challenging, especially if your winters are snowy and rainy. Thankfully, it can still be done, so if you do not have a dryer, you do not need to expose yourself or your family to potentially harmful indoor air pollution or mold from drying clothes indoors. The main thing with drying clothes outside in winter is patience. Good luck drying your clothes!

Next, you can learn how to fold your clothes fast and neat or see this step-by-step guide on how to line dry your clothes.

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